6 NHL Teams That Got Worse During 2023 Offseason

More than a few teams improved this offseason, but what about the other end of things? Who got worse? After looking at improved teams from this offseason, let’s look at others, in no particular order, that may not have fared as well when trying to bolster their rosters for the 2023-24 season. 

Boston Bruins

Notable offseason moves:

  • Signed James van Riemsdyk (1 year)
  • Signed Kevin Shattenkirk (1 year)
  • Signed Morgan Geekie (2 years)
  • Signed Jesper Boqvist (1 year)
  • Signed Milan Lucic (1 year)

Key departures:

  • Patrice Bergeron (retired), David Krejci (retired), Taylor Hall, Dmitry Orlov, Connor Clifton, Tomáš Nosek, Garnet Hathaway, Nick Foligno, Tyler Bertuzzi

The Bruins had plenty of turnover this offseason, partly due to cap reasons and partly because of some core players retiring. After two great careers, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron announced their retirements. Bergeron was a perennial Selke candidate, while Krejci was long one of the more underrated second-line centers in the NHL. 

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But that isn’t where things ended for the Bruins. They traded Taylor Hall and his $6 million cap hit to the Chicago Blackhawks to free up cap space. They also packaged Nick Foligno’s UFA rights to Chicago with Hall. Garnet Hathaway, Dmitry Orlov, Connor Clifton and Tomáš Nosek all signed elsewhere in free agency. 

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney did the best he could to fill out the team’s depth by signing players like James van Riemsdyk, Jesper Boqvist and Morgan Geekie to short-term deals. But there’s no doubt this team will look much different this season. They lost a net of 3.1 wins based on 2022-23 wins above replacement (WAR), and with players like Linus Ullmark due for a regression, there will be a big dropoff from the 135-point season they had in 2022-23. The Bruins should still be a playoff team, but it could come in a wild-card spot in a much more balanced Atlantic Division. 

Tampa Bay Lightning

Notable offseason moves:

  • Signed Conor Sheary (3 years)
  • Signed Tyler Motte (1 year)
  • Signed Calvin de Haan (1 year)
  • Signed Luke Glendening (1 year)

Key departures:

  • Alex Killorn, Ross Colton, Ian Cole, Patrick Maroon, Corey Perry

Similar to the Bruins, the salary cap has gotten to the Lightning. Their high-end talent — Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy — is still their high-end talent. But they’re not the deep team that made the Stanley Cup Final three years in a row. Far from it. 

Like the Bruins, their offseason was more about their departures than their additions. Losing Alex Killorn to the Anaheim Ducks in free agency will hurt their depth the most this coming season, as he was a consistent 20-25 goal scorer capable of close to 60 points a season. 

Alex Killorn Tampa Bay Lightning
Alex Killorn with the Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Trading Ross Colton to the Colorado Avalanche won’t help much, either, nor will losing trading Corey Perry to the Blackhawks. Conor Sheary is a reliable middle-six winger who can put up close to 20 goals and 40 points across 82 games. He’ll replace some of the offense lost from Killorn, Colton and Perry, but certainly not all of it. 

Ian Cole is still one of the better third-pair defenders in the NHL, so losing him won’t help their blue line, though Calvin de Haan should fill a third-pair role well enough. Still, the Lightning added just 0.3 wins to their roster while losing 4.1 — a net of 3.8 wins lost. But the Lightning will have to rely on their big guns to stay in a top-three spot in the Atlantic Division. 

Seattle Kraken

Notable offseason moves:

  • Signed Kailer Yamamoto (1 year)
  • Signed Brian Dumoulin (2 years)
  • Signed Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (1 year)

Key departures:

  • Daniel Sprong, Carson Soucy, Ryan Donato, Martin Jones, Morgan Geekie

Coming off their first playoff appearance in franchise history, the Kraken will hope to repeat their success in 2023-24. Unfortunately, their offseason was less than ideal. After not qualifying Daniel Sprong, GM Ron Francis replaced him with Kailer Yamamoto, who the Edmonton Oilers didn’t qualify either. 

Yamamoto didn’t have the best 2022-23, partly due to injuries. But he has rebound potential if he can stay on the ice this season. He’s one year removed from a 20-goal, 41-point campaign and should play a top-nine role with the Kraken. 

Kailer Yamamoto Edmonton Oilers
Kailer Yamamoto with the Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

On defense, the Kraken parted ways with Carson Soucy and replaced him with Brian Dumoulin. Soucy is one of the more underrated rush defenders in the NHL, so his loss will hurt their defensive depth. But Dumoulin should fill the void if the Kraken use him in a third-pair role. He showed signs of decline with the Pittsburgh Penguins this past season, so reducing his minutes will put him in the best position to succeed. 

The Kraken added 1.4 wins to their roster this offseason while losing 3.8, a net of 2.4 wins lost. They should still be competitive but may take a step back in a stacked Pacific Division in 2023-24. Fortunately for the Kraken, the future is bright, as they’ve built a farm system with some intriguing prospects, so there’s still plenty of upside.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Notable offseason moves:

  • Signed Tyler Bertuzzi (1 year)
  • Signed Max Domi (1 year)
  • Signed John Klingberg (1 year)
  • Signed Ryan Reaves (3 years)

Key departures:

  • Justin Holl, Ryan O’Reilly, Alex Kerfoot, Noel Acciari, Michael Bunting and Luke Schenn

The Maple Leafs had an interesting offseason under new GM Brad Treliving. They added more offense with Tyler Bertuzzi, Maxi Domi and, to a lesser extent, John Klingberg. That’s without a doubt, but it will come at the expense of their defense, which got significantly worse. 

Bertuzzi has had trouble staying healthy the last few seasons, but he’s a capable top-six winger who can put up close to 30 goals and 60 points a season. Domi doesn’t have that kind of scoring pop, but he can produce close to 20 goals and 50 points. The issue is their defensive impacts are in the red, specifically Domi, who’s one of the worst defensive forwards in the NHL. 

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Klingberg can put up points on the power play, but he might be the worst defensive defenseman in the NHL. Ryan Reaves may be a locker-room presence, but his on-ice impacts are significantly in the red. The Maple Leafs added 0.1 wins while losing 3.3 from last season’s team. They’re still the favorites to win the Atlantic, but they’re not an improved roster from 2022-23. 

Los Angeles Kings

Notable offseason moves:

  • Acquired and signed Pierre-Luc Dubois (8 years)
  • Signed Cam Talbot (1 year)
  • Signed Trevor Lewis (1 year)
  • Signed David Rittich (1 year)

Key departures:

  • Gabriel Vilardi, Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Kupari, Sean Walker, Sean Durzi, Joonas Korpisalo, Cal Petersen

The Kings were one of the few Western Conference teams who made a splash this summer. Looking for some help down the middle, they acquired Pierre-Luc Dubois from the Winnipeg Jets. Dubois’ counting totals may not be overly impressive, but he’s a legit top-six, borderline first-line center who’ll help the team.

Pierre-Luc Dubois Winnipeg Jets
Pierre-Luc Dubois with the Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The issue is that the Kings gave up quite a bit to acquire Dubois. Going to Winnipeg were Gabriel Vilardi, Alex Iafallo and Rasmus Kupari. Vilardi produced at a 30-goal pace last season, while Iafallo produced at a 50-point pace. Perhaps Dubois has another gear to his game, but what the Kings gave up for him negates his addition.

The Kings also had to move around plenty of cap space to make room for Dubois by trading Sean Durzi to the Arizona Coyotes and Sean Walker and Cal Petersen to the Philadelphia Flyers in separate deals. They didn’t upgrade in net by signing Cam Talbot, who may be beginning to decline at 36 years old. 

The Kings may have added nearly two wins to their skater group by acquiring Dubois, but they also lost 4.2 with the subtractions. There’s plenty of talent on this roster, and they shouldn’t have a problem making the playoffs unless they’re going goaltending setup implodes, which is possible. But it’s hard to argue they improved this summer. 

Colorado Avalanche

Notable Offseason Moves:

  • Acquired Ryan Johansen
  • Acquired and signed Ross Colton (4 years)
  • Signed Miles Wood (6 years)
  • Signed Jonathan Drouin (1 year)
  • Signed Tomáš Tatar (1 year)

Key departures

  • J.T. Compher, Evan Rodrigues, Erik Johnson, Denis Malgin, Matt Nieto, Lars Eller, Darren Helm (Retired), Alex Newhook

The Avalanche will be contenders again this season, but it’ll be coming off the talent they already have and not necessarily what they acquired this summer. It started with a trade for Ryan Johansen, who has struggled in recent years aside from 2021-22, when he shot 22 percent. 

Johansen was one of the worst rush players in the league last season, and that might not improve at 31 years old. It’s debatable whether he’s an upgrade over J.T. Compher, who signed with the Detroit Red Wings as an unrestricted free agent. And he may even be a downgrade.

Though Colton is coming off a down season, the Avalanche did well to acquire him for just a second-round pick in the 2023 draft. He can pot 20 goals and close to 40 points when on his game, and he should get more of an opportunity for consistent top-nine minutes in Colorado. 

Ross Colton Tampa Bay Lightning
Ross Colton with the Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

But the real head-scratcher was the Avalanche signing Miles Wood to a six-year deal in free agency. The term likely helped keep his cap hit down at $2.5 million, but he was a significant negative on the New Jersey Devils’ roster a season ago and did not look the same after having hip surgery and missing all but three games of 2021-22.

Not only did the Avalanche add 0.7 wins to their roster between Johansen, Wood, Colton, Tomáš Tatar and Jonathan Drouin, but they also lost 6.1 wins with the departures of Compher, Evan Rodrigues and their other subtractions. 

Are the Avalanche going to be 5.4 wins worse than a season ago? I highly doubt it. Their elite talent in Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Lehtonen and Cale Makar will propel them to a division crown in a weak Central. But it’s hard to argue they improved this summer. Then again, it’s the Avalanche, so their additions will probably have career seasons and make all of this moot. 

Playoffs Still Likely for Most Teams

Just because these teams didn’t improve this offseason doesn’t mean they’ll all fall out of the playoff picture. In fact, most should make it. They might just not be the powerhouses they once were, specifically when it comes to the Bruins and Lightning. With the changes, they should very much find themselves in more competitive battles to clinch postseason berths. 

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Advanced stats from Evolving Hockey